On the agenda: El Toro hiking trail proposal - Morgan Hill Times: City Local Government

On the agenda: El Toro hiking trail proposal

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Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 8:05 pm | Updated: 12:25 pm, Thu Mar 21, 2013.

The Morgan Hill Parks and Recreation Commission will discuss the proposal to build a hiking trail and associated facilities up the side of El Toro Mountain at its next meeting Tuesday, March 19.

First proposed in 2002 as part of the City’s trails and natural resources study, development of the El Toro trail will be divided into two phases if approved by the Council at an unscheduled future date. The first phase of the trail would utilize public land already owned by the City and the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority.

The second phase would require the purchase of more property at the summit, which is privately owned but has been illegally accessed by hikers for decades. City staff currently estimate the total project cost at about $820,000. The owner of private property at the top of the mountain has not granted permission to the City or any other organized group to access the property, though the existing trail is frequently used anyway.

The Phase One, 1.9-mile trail network could include new trailheads – one at the end of Via Grande and one near the parking lot of West Hills Church on DeWitt Avenue – which would be connected by a winding dirt trail that traverses the eastern face of El Toro Mountain, which looms over west Morgan Hill. The summit is about 1,400 feet above sea level, and the existing half-mile trail climbs from the end of Via Grande mostly in a straight line and at a steep grade.

There is no defined schedule for the project’s progress, including when it will appear before the Council for approval. But City staff said they will continue to engage residents about their concerns and consider alternatives to the current plans.

Residents of Via Grande, Main Avenue and other neighborhoods at the foot of El Toro have made it known in recent months that they are concerned about the trail’s and its users’ impact on the quiet streets where they live. Worries stem from the threat of parked vehicles jamming up the street, litter, loitering, noise, traffic and other impacts.

The illegal trail already attracts frequent use. A survey conducted last summer by a consultant hired by the City showed one Saturday, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., about 70 hikers embarked toward the top of El Toro.

The City recently compiled a page on its website devoted to the El Toro project, with background information, minutes of previous discussions at PRC and other meetings, and the full trail survey results. The web page is at www.morgan-hill.ca.gov/?nid=1054.

The Parks and Recreation Commission meeting will take place 7 p.m. Tuesday at Council chambers, 17555 Peak Ave.

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